Mixed Marriage?

Guess who's coming to dinner? It's your spouse again, wanting meat. Can this marriage be saved?

If want to be a vegetarian, but your spouse doesn't, your situation isn't as unusual as you might think. I’ve received numerous emails from readers and worked with clients who find themselves in the same boat.

In general, there is nothing wrong with differences. In fact, it's great when each spouse brings different personality traits and preferences to the relationship. But incompatibility about diet can be problematic.

Preparing two different kinds of meals, for example, is not an effective or practical long-term resolution, especially for the spouse doing most of the work in the kitchen.

Beyond the time and effort involved in cooking meals, there is a fundamental misalignment or imbalance between people who cannot find a way to be in synch about something as important as what and how they eat together.

Unless one spouse can happily go to the other’s side, this can grow into an unending quarrel. When both spouses feel strongly about their own desires, finding a happy medium requires open-mindedness and positive attitudes on both sides. One effective technique in resolving conflicts is finding a way to connect with each other in a meaningful manner — that is, with compassion, empathy and a spirit of compromise!

The diet dilemma is an important issue and one that can be effectively resolved between a couple. If each spouse can put aside the self in the interest of themselves, discovering the answer, even if through compromise, is perfectly
Amira Elgandoable. It’s not a power-of-the-will test but an exercise of unconditional love and selfless reflection.

The first step is to openly discuss what you each want, why it is important to you, and how you can show some understanding and consideration for one another.

And give it time. Some people are able to make major lifestyle changes very quickly, and others take months or even years to change.

Both sides have to meet half way, or it's not going to work. For example, the meat eater might accept all-vegetarian meals half the time, and in exchange can have
meat at home the rest of the time. For the vegetarian hoping to convert the omnivore, that solution gives ample opportunity to show how delicious, healthy and satisfying vegetarian meals can be.

The diet dilemma isn’t limited to couples; it’s also common for teenagers to want a different diet from their parents. Often teenagers want to become vegetarians and the parents don't -- though sometimes it's the other way around.

My youngest son, who is 18 years old, grew up on a vegetarian diet. That was not his choice; it was mine and my husband’s decision because we are vegetarians. Although as parents we advocated vegetarianism, we always told our children that they had a choice.

My youngest son ate chicken for the first time at 12. After that, he had turkey every Thanksgiving at his grandmother’s house and gradually increased his intake of
chicken and turkey to several times per year.

He has been doing weight training since he was 14. He's gotten more serious about it, and in the past two years even works with a personal trainer. Each of his
three personal trainers told him that animal protein is required to increase muscle mass. I don’t agree, but I also don't agree with the idea that one diet is best for everyone. We each have our own unique ideal diet.

(I'd also like to point out that my son's first trainer told him he was by far the strongest 16-year-old he had ever seen, a fact I attribute mainly to growing up on a
healthy, well-balanced and, yes, 99% vegetarian diet.

Some people crave animal protein and say it makes them feel stronger, healthier and more energetic. There are some dietary theories to support this. But there is also mounting evidence that a well-balanced plant-based diet is the healthiest and the most eco-friendly.

As for my son, he still eats a mostly vegetarian diet that is very healthy. He loves eating my food, which always includes lots of veggies, salads, grains, beans and some tofu, seitan and tempeh.

I still won’t make chicken for him and he’s never expected me to. I realize, however, that my son really wants to eat chicken. Rather than imposing my choice on him, I now occasionally buy already-prepared organic free-range chicken raised without hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. He eats it once or twice a week. Most importantly, we compromised and found a solution that we can both live with.

I think that's one example of how compromise on both sides can enable vegetarians and non-vegetarians to live together in harmony.

In any functional and loving relationship, it’s vital to value and appreciate each other’s background from the other’s perspective to find common grounds that can sustain a strong, happy, healthy and life-long relationship.

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Isn't Coconut Oil Healthy?

Q: I read your article "Cutting Fat to Lose Weight" and when you stated to avoid coconut oil....well...I’m confused now.

So much misinformation out there and just wished to clarify your reasoning behind coconut oil and what studies you have done on it. I ask because...the evidence is pointing to coconut oil being beneficial to loosing weight being it isn’t stored as fat on your body but burned as energy. Can you clarify this for me?

Best wishes,
Catherine Lee Jonez
Boston Bar, British Columbia, Canada

A: Thank you for the great question. Back in 2003 I wrote an article called, “Cutting Fat to Loose Weight” in, which I recommend avoiding coconut oil.

There is a lot of hype about coconut oil, and that hype results from a common process that begins with health research.

When scientists discover that some element of a natural food is healthy in some way, food or drug companies and others try to figure out how to profit from the isolation and sale of that component as a kind of "drug" or wonder food. It's part of a longstanding tradition in western medicine and science that constantly strives to improve, rather than embrace, nature.

In accepting this profit-driven, reductionist view about food, we neglect variety and moderation. Too much of any good thing can be bad for you.

Instead, we should add new research to our knowledge of foods, and constantly strive to eat those foods in their most original, unaltered and whole state.

Coconut oil is the isolated fat that results from pressed coconut meat. In recent years, coconut oil has grown in popularity because it is high in lauric acid, which research has shown might boost brain function and enhance the immune system. Lauric acid is a substance also present in human breast milk that, when consumed by infants, is converted into monolaurin, which gives babies
protection from infections. It is also being promoted as a weight loss aid because it contains at least 50 percent medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are easily digested and not stored as fat by the body and instead enhance the metabolism while giving a feeling of satiety.

Thus far, however, the majority of cumulative research on coconut oil does not provide sufficient evidence to treat it as a healthier saturated fat than animal-derived saturated fat. Contrary to some claims, many studies have shown that coconut oil raises cholesterol due its high saturated fat content.

Even with claims that coconut oil could be minimally healthful, most experts agree that the risks associated with high intake of saturated fat outweigh the benefits.

If you eat a diet generally low in other saturated fats and cholesterol (such as a vegan diet), then a moderate intake of unrefined coconut oil might not be harmful.

Until more significant research can show corroborated data on the effects of coconut oil on the metabolism, as well as its effects in supporting weight loss, I have to reiterate that it’s something to generally avoid.

Most of our healthy fatty acids should come from whole, unprocessed foods such as avocado, flax seeds, raw nuts and raw seeds, so we get the whole package of nutrients including all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytochemicals and fiber, which are destroyed when we process foods to isolate single ingredients -- and all the healthy components that science has yet to discover and isolate.

As a general rule, it's best to eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible -- not isolated single components. While we need the use of isolated fats for cooking and dressings, for instance, it’s best that keep those to a minimum. Eating a whole coconut is way better for you than the isolated fat itself.

On Homemade Meals


I enjoyed this mailing and appreciate receiving it. I am appalled at the percentage of people who use prepared industrial foods instead of cooking from scratch. People seem to have lost the ability to think for themselves and believe most advertisements they see on TV or all around. It explains why Americans in particular are suffering from obesity and dying sooner than other world populations. But one cannot teach intelligence to people who are self-satisfied and brain-washed.

Because I am a senior person of European origin, my values are different and I ran my life accordingly, raising two sons on-home cooked meals and hand-knit sweaters - all the while working full-time because I was a very young widow with no other income than my salary. But I did not waste time watching TV endlessly or otherwise. So it is a matter of personal choice.

Thanks for your good work.

Monique Vadlövö
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Change Comes From Within

“The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force or effort or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal.”

- Deepak Chopra

Your Wholesome Life

This newsletter and blog are free, but I make my living providing one-on-one holistic health counseling, either in person or by phone.

I invite you to contact me and let me help you make the changes you always wanted to make, one step at a time. The first initial one-hour consultation is free.

When it comes to overall health and happiness, it’s all connected; your food, your relationships, your lifestyle and you career are all part of the equation. I’d love to help you find your solution.


Corn Syrup Is Harming Our Kids

New research corroborates that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) increases the risk of developing diabetes, especially in children. Researchers found that consuming soft drinks sweetened with HFCS triggers tissue and cell damage, which causes diabetes. HFCS is a cheap ingredient popular with unscrupulous manufacturers and therefore commonly found in thousands of beverages and packaged foods, both conventional and even some organic products. The best defense against this toxic sweetener is to eat a whole foods diet, read labels carefully, and avoid this nasty ingredient.

According to the author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, HFCS accounts for 20 percent of the calories in many children’s diets. Corn, Pollan states, is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic in this country.

Disturbingly, Pollan argues that there is a correlation between poverty and obesity which is the result of the U.S. government’s agricultural policies and subsidies paid for by our tax dollars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the 2007 Farm Bill is going to make any significant strides thanks to our politicians who are failing to address tax payer’s concerns in the interest of big business.

Stay motivated - Read health-related research news, events and commentary every day. Check out Amira's Vegetarian Organic Life Blog.

Food For Life

This is a not a paid endorsement. It's simply my way of appreciating and acknowledging excellence in companies that strive to support the interest of health-conscious consumers.

Food for Life makes delicious and super-healthy Ezekiel breads and cereals made from sprouted grains.

I’ve been eating Food for Life products for many years. But this privately-owned, California-based company continues to innovate and create wholesome and healthy products that are as good as homemade.

Although I’m a big advocate of foods made at home from scratch, I don’t feel guilty buying already-made sprouted organic whole grain corn tortillas made with
freshly sprouted 100% organic whole kernel corn, which is completely free of flour, cornmeal, additives and preservatives. (They even come in a re-sealable and recyclable bag.)

Food for Life is better known for bread than tortillas -- which is a shame, because the company's tortillas are something truly special.

Ordinary "industrial" corn tortillas are made from pulverized genetically modified corn flour, often laden with pesticides and preservatives. For example, Mission Corn tortillas are made with ground corn treated with lime, water, cellulose gum (an emulsifier), propionic acid (a preservative), phosphoric acid (another preservative), benzoic acid (yet another preservative), dextrose (a sugar), guar gum (a thickener) and amylase (an enzyme).

Food For Life tortillas, by contrast, are made with organic sprouted whole kernel corn, filtered water, sea salt and lime -- that's it.

Here's the best part. If you heat Food For Life tortillas up properly, they taste far better than conventional tortillas. Submerge them in water completely but briefly before heating them up in a pan, grill or a bamboo steamer (for a softer consistency).

Operation: Stealth Veggies

According to a Penn State University study, parents can help their children reduce intake of high calorie foods by crowding them out with high-nutrient lower-calorie ingredients.

Researchers suggest sneaking in vegetables such as broccoli blended in pasta sauce. Higher intake of vegetables translates into fewer calorie but higher nutrient intake for children to enjoy better health and a healthy weight.

But this should not be a replacement for whole vegetables but an additional measure to continue to instill love for vegetables in children. "Stealth foods" should be used as a way of increasing and maximizing nutrition in children’s diets. Be creative. Try ground flaxseeds in dressings and cereals, garbanzo beans in a tahini dressing, quinoa in soups or ground nuts or seeds in cold and hot cereals.




Fiesta Tofu Tostadas

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Nothing says celebration like a wonderfully tasty homemade meal around the dinner table with loved ones sharing the scrumptious and savory aromas and rich flavors of my fiesta tofu tostadas. The enticing spices and herbs create an irresistible harmony of delightful and nutritious ingredients. High in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, my fiesta tostadas will conquer the most avid meat eaters.

Cook’s Tidbits:

This dish will taste even better after it has been refrigerated. Make it a day or two ahead of time. Make plenty of it to have leftovers to make second and third meals out of it. Try it in tacos with my cabbage relish for a second dinner or bring some to work and have it for lunch. Try to make home cooked beans from scratch, they taste so much better.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)

1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into 1 inch squares
1 large orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into 1 inch squares
16 oz extra firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
3 cups cooked black beans, drained (homemade if possible – see link above)
2 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
¾ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 package organic whole grain corn tortillas (about 2 per person)
1 cup fresh radish and tomato relish or pico de gallo or tomato salsa


1. In an extra large skillet or pot heat oils on low heat and add onion, garlic and bell peppers sautéing for 5 minutes or until they look translucent, stirring frequently.

2. Add tofu cubes sautéing for 5 more minutes and continue to stir over medium heat. Add beans, paprika, cumin, turmeric, black pepper and salt. Mix well and continue to sauté for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

3. In the meantime, heat up pan or oven to 350 degrees F to warm up tortillas in single layers making sure you turn them over after two or three minutes to prevent sticking to the pan or cookie sheet. For a soft consistency, remove from the oven promptly and for crunchy consistency leave them in the oven until they are baked, about 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Add cilantro to tofu, stir well sautéing for a couple of more minutes, adjust seasoning and turn off heat. Take mixture and place a generous amount on each tortilla. Top with relish or salsa, sliced avocado and serve immediately.



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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

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